Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington, Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA, CANADA — Tracie Behan has the mother of all food trucks. The 48-foot, custom-outfitted mobile kitchen features three ovens, three vats for deep-frying, a walk-in refrigerator and a larger-than-life image of a pelvis-thrusting Elvis plastered on the side.
The plan was for Tracie’s Hollywood Diner to serve up wholesome, homey meals made from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients from her restaurant on wheels at an affordable price to hungry passersby. With $200,000 invested in the personalized truck, the plan did not include not being able to obtain a food truck permit from the city.
Food trucks have been a subject of conversation in Ottawa as foodies turn an envious eye to other North American cities like Vancouver and New York, where the street cuisine culture is more established and diverse. However, increased food truck presence has been slow to move through city licensing procedures.
In Behan’s case, a permit was out of the question. The city requires entrepreneurs applying for mobile food vendors permit to sell out of vehicles less than 10 meters, roughly 33 feet, in length.
“Not to be rude or anything, but the woman I called told me ‘you’re not getting a permit — not a chance in hell,’” said Behan, 43. “Those were the actual words.”
Behan said she went ahead with building the custom trailer, fully believing the city would be ‘okay’ with the monstrous size of her sassy kitchen. The actual kitchen space is only about six meters, and fully complies with food safety and sanitation codes, she said.
The size limitations exist to ensure a truck such as Behan’s “does not take up too many required parking spaces for the primary use of the site,” said Linda Anderson, chief of bylaw and regulatory services, in an email.
That may be so, but her hearty concoctions are worth it, said Behan, a longtime Greenbank-area resident. Her goal is to serve food that busy people may not have time to make themselves, for affordable prices. She pulls it off with the help of Algonquin College culinary students dressed in cute diner costumes (and if you’re lucky, in a blond Marilyn Monroe wig).
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